Each member of the Krasnovskys has his or her own reasons for emigrating. Alec has been stunted by the conformity of Russian life, the way no advancement or achievement was possible for him in the Soviet Union of the 1970s, Polina is seeking adventure, even though it means being torn away from her sister, the only person she has ever truly loved, Karl wants to make money, bundles of it, and the West seems to offer boundless, if not necessarily legal, opportunities, Mrs. Krasnovsky was once a physician but has subsided into mere grandmotherhood and wants religious freedom for her descendants, and Samuil, a hero of World War II who still treasures his medals and worships the Soviet Union, sees no reason to leave but is dragged unwillingly along by the others.
In Rome the family has turbulent adventures: suspenseful encounters with black marketeers, touching affairs with unsuitable partners, unfortunate pregnancies, unending disputes. But whatever the miseries he’s created for his characters, Bezmozgis’s take on the family’s plight is wry and humourous. This is book that will make you laugh as well as cry.
The critic for one esteemed publication compared Bezmozgis to Philip Roth. I can see why. Like Roth, he dabbles in tragedy behind a mask of jokiness. He’s not raunchy, like Portnoy’s Papa, yet he’s every bit as witty. But here his resemblance to Roth ends. Roth’s fictional absorption is with himself; Bezmozgis is far more interested in the lives of others.
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These look like great recommendations–thanks, Linda! The only one I’ve already read is GTFTS, but I think it’s due for a re-read.